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Lord Stanley of Alderley: My Lords, I am very grateful to my noble friend for his reply. I trust that he will table the necessary amendment at Third Reading. If he cannot do so, I may be forced to table an amendment on lines that will satisfy my noble friends who supported the amendment.

I was grateful for the contribution of the noble Baroness, Lady Nicol. She too felt that it was necessary to place some onus on the landowner, although I believe that that is a minor point having listened to my noble friends Lord Renton and Lord Jenkin. I was a little chicken hearted including that particular part in the amendment. I did that to curry favour with the Department of the Environment. Perhaps I shall have to reconsider that aspect.

I gained the impression that there was considerable support for the amendment. I believe that my noble friend on the Front Bench also got that message. I beg leave to withdraw the amendment.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

7.15 p.m.

[Amendments Nos. 143A and 143B not moved.]

Viscount Ullswater moved Amendment No. 144:

Page 50, line 13, leave out from beginning to ("the") in line 15.

The noble Viscount said: My Lords, I spoke to Amendment No. 144 with Amendment No. 140. I beg to move.

On Question, amendment agreed to.

[Amendments Nos. 144A to 144C not moved.]

The Earl of Lindsay moved Amendment No. 144D:

Page 50, line 26, after ("the") insert ("significant").

The noble Earl said: My Lords, my noble friend spoke to Amendment No. 144D with Amendment No. 128C. I beg to move.

On Question, amendment agreed to.

[Amendments Nos. 144E and 144F not moved.]

Lord Northbourne moved Amendment No. 144G:

Page 50, line 48, at end insert:
("( ) When an enforcing authority has served a remediation notice in accordance with this section, it shall be the duty of the authority to take appropriate steps to satisfy itself that the requirements of that notice have been complied with, and, if they have been, to issue and serve on the persons on whom that remediation was served a certificate of compliance with that notice.").

The noble Lord said: My Lords, it seems only reasonable that, if a local authority serves a notice requiring remediation of a particular site up to a certain standard, when that remediation has been carried out the local authority should acknowledge the fact. Indeed, as

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I understand it, the notice is recorded on a register. As the Act stands at present there appears to be no provision for striking that notice off the register or making any entry in the register to show that the work has been carried out.

Surely the local authority will have to satisfy itself that the work has been carried out. Otherwise landowners will simply get away with not doing the work. If the local authority has satisfied itself that the work has been done, then, in justice, it should acknowledge the fact in some form, either by making a note on the register or by providing a certificate of compliance. That must be extremely important in terms of the title to the land when future transactions take place. I beg to move.

The Earl of Kinnoull: My Lords, I strongly support the amendment. Perhaps my noble friend will be able to tell the House that this issue is already covered somewhere in the Bill. However, I am reminded of a similar situation in relation to a listed building. When a local authority serves a notice of repair I am certain that, at the end of the repair work, a certificate is issued. Otherwise, as the noble Lord, Lord Northbourne, said, there would remain a stain on the title of the property that would make it virtually unsaleable. Therefore, in view of the importance of the matter, I hope that my noble friend has some encouraging news.

The Earl of Lytton: My Lords, I support the amendment warmly. It seems to me that there needs to be some comfort that an acceptable standard of remediation for a particular use has been achieved. That comfort applies on both sides, both to the local authority as the enforcing body and to the owner or occupier of the land on whom the remediation notice is served.

The purpose of the amendment is to provide some form of certification process to indicate that that has been achieved. That does not prevent a further remediation notice being served in the future. But it will mean that the present owner of the land can have some comfort that for the present or proposed use inherent in a particular scheme the land has been successfully remediated as regards contamination and the door is not left open to further demands for yet more action to clean up the land. That is entirely consistent with policy statements made in the past in terms of the need to lead the clean-up process from the front, if necessary, through the development process.

If there is uncertainty, risk is created where there is no need for risk. In certain circumstances it would be impossible to obtain funding for a scheme which relied in some part on a remediation approach. If that happens, important sites will be hostages to fortune as everybody tries to avoid liability in respect of those sites. Many of those sites are difficult enough to bring forward for development without adding to their problems. If such an amendment is not acceptable, I ask the Minister what will prevent a local authority enticing a developer to accept a clean-up programme as part of the development process and then progressively imposing more conditions? I hesitate to say that any significant number of local authorities would seek to do that but it might

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be a convenient way to circumvent the principles of cost benefits. The whole issue would become a moveable feast. I have some concerns about that.

I do not believe it right that new conditions should be added. I hope that the Bill does not provide for a rolling programme of additional encumbrances. I am sure that that is not the intention. However, the amendment seems an important safeguard in that respect.

Viscount Ullswater: My Lords, Amendment No. 144G, moved by the noble Lord, Lord Northbourne, imposes a specific duty on enforcing authorities to satisfy themselves that the requirements of remediation notices have been fully met and to issue a certificate of compliance accordingly. Quite apart from the additional workload associated with the duty to check that the requirements had been met and the extra bureaucracy implied by the service of another document, I do not believe that such a process would be appropriate. I shall explain why.

First, it would not readily address the problem of how to account for long-term remediation requirements, in particular, for example, where active venting or monitoring might be required to deal with landfill gas. In those cases the site would be in the process of complying with a remediation notice for a considerable period of time.

Secondly, a certificate of compliance might bring an unjustified implication that the site in question would be permanently exempt from further regulatory action. I know that the noble Earl, Lord Lytton, is concerned about that. But such a total assurance could never be given, even if the chances of further regulatory action can be greatly diminished. The circumstances on the site could change over time in a number of ways. New gas generation could start, containment measures could fail or a new and more sensitive used of the land could be introduced. Any one of those could lead to the land returning within the definition of contaminated land. If there were any sense that responsibility for further remediation would pass to the enforcing authorities, those authorities would display a marked reluctance ever to sign off a site as completely clear.

My noble friend Lord Kinnoull gave the comparison of a listed building. I do not believe that a listed building raises the same problems that we face with contaminated land. I hope that I have identified some of the problems which the amendment would pose for the regulatory authority. In view of that, I hope that the noble Lord will withdraw the amendment.

Lord Northbourne: My Lords, before the noble Viscount sits down, perhaps I may seek clarification. Is he saying that once a notice has been issued that certain land requires remediation up to a certain standard, that notice will always be on the record and can never be expunged?

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Viscount Ullswater: My Lords, the whole point of the record is that it indicates what has been done to certain land which at the time was designated as contaminated. In the future it may be useful to indicate what has been done. We would consider the idea of adding other information to that register so that whatever has been done could form part of that valuable information.

The Earl of Lytton: My Lords, before the Minister sits down, perhaps I may say this. I think that I understood him correctly. What he said appears to preclude any identification of "suitable for use". One would never know what the term "suitable" meant. One could never attach the term to a use with the smallest degree of certainty. Perhaps the noble Viscount can explain that point further.

Viscount Ullswater: My Lords, I do not believe that I compromised the idea of "suitable for use". What I said was that if a contaminated land site needed further remediation over a period of years, then it would not be right for the agency to assume that remediation by being able to sign off the previous owners as having stated they had complied with the remediation notice. Further remediation may be required in due course. The site may change and different and further remediation might be required.

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